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Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End Hardcover – August 31, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (August 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400052904
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400052905
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rosabeth Moss Kanter will convince you that the goal of winning is not losing two times in a row. In her view, success and failure are not events, they are self-fulfilling tendencies. "Confidence is the sweet spot between arrogance and despair--consisting of positive expectations for favorable outcomes." says Kanter, a Harvard Business School Professor and author of The Change Masters.

She applies the literature of cognitive psychology (dissonance, explanatory models, learned optimism) to explore the winning and losing streaks of a diverse lineup including the BBC, Gillette, Verizon, Continental Airlines, the Chicago Cubs, and Target. The result is a brilliant anatomy lesson of the big decisions and the small gestures that build and restore confidence.

Three cornerstones are clearly detailed: "Accountability," the actions that involve facing facts without humiliation; "Collaboration," the rituals of respect that create teamwork, and "Initiative/Innovation," the "kaleidoscope thinking" that unlocks energy and creativity. A standout chapter describes how Nelson Mandela created a culture of confidence in South Africa. Some readers may wish for more strategies about positive habits of mind in individuals. Others will search for a quick fix. Instead, Moss Kanter’s in-depth examples and ideas about resilient organizations will become required reading. They add up to a persuasive and informed optimism. --Barbara Mackoff

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on more than 300 interviews with leaders in business, sports and politics, Kanter cogently explains the role confidence plays in the performance of institutions and individuals. Losing streaks are often created and then perpetuated when people lose confidence in their leaders and systems, while winning streaks are fueled by confident people who are secure in their own abilities and the ability of their leaders. Winning streaks are characterized by continuity and continued investment, Kanter argues, while losing streaks are marked by disruption and a lack of investment that typically give way to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Combining theory with practical advice, Kanter details how losing organizations can instill accountability, collaboration and initiative—Kanter's three pillars of confidence—to help start a turnaround. She illustrates her ideas with a number of real-world examples, among them how the new owner of the Philadelphia Eagles stopped the team's chronic losing ways and built a winning organization. Kanter, a professor at the Harvard Business School and author of numerous books (including Men and Women of the Corporation), delivers valuable insights on the importance of confidence to success and on how organizations can create practices that build that much needed asset.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. Her strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide for over 25 years, through teaching, writing, and direct consultation to major corporations and governments. The former Editor of Harvard Business Review (1989-1992), Professor Kanter has been named to lists of the "50 most powerful women in the world" (Times of London), and the "50 most influential business thinkers in the world" (Accenture and Thinkers 50 research). In 2001, she received the Academy of Management's Distinguished Career Award for her scholarly contributions to management knowledge, and in 2002 was named "Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year" by the World Teleport Association.

She is the author or co-author of 18 books. Her latest book is SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good, a manifesto for leadership of sustainable enterprises. SuperCorp is based on three years of research and more than 350 interviews in 20 countries.

Customer Reviews

This book was written like a textbook.
T. Berarducci
I'm the director of a start-up program in a 36 year old company that's a leader in a very mature industry.
Catherine S. Read
I feel we now have a deeper understanding of our own winning and losing streaks.
Beverly L. Kaye

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

283 of 305 people found the following review helpful By Sean M. Gallagher on October 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
REVIEW SUMMARY: The author of CONFIDENCE informs the reader "I wrote this book not only to show teams, companies, communities, and countries how to cultivate better leadership. I also had a grander goal: to help people in many walks of life to find the confidence to win whatever game they are playing..." (page 350) Unfortunately, the product of these laudable goals falls woefully short both as a source of wisdom and as an interesting read. Those seeking insight into to how to best lead change, how to increase their own confidence, or strategies for effective leadership in general, should select other sources. Several excellent books are recommended at the end of this review.

REVIEW: CONFIDENCE fails the reader for 3 reasons: 1) the few insights provided are so basic as to be best described as trite; 2) the surplus verbiage and detail embedded in the text and examples causes the reader's mind to wander; and 3) the author's excessive reference to herself is in conflict with the leadership advice she is offering and seems to border on narcissism.

In the book's final chapter Ms. Kanter boils down the breadth of her wisdom to the following hackneyed bit of advice: "By now the secret of winning should be clear: Try not to lose twice in a row." (page 350) The author believes this sentence to be so valuable, indeed, so profound, that she makes it a separate paragraph.

The author indulges herself with superfluous detail that can drive the reader to distraction. For example, in describing the Philadelphia Eagles' need to prioritize their resources and efforts, Ms. Kanter included the following sentence: "Andy Reid's request for software for his Avid computer system had to take a backseat to the technology needs of the stadium." (page 157).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By j clark on December 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had great expectations of this book as it started out OK. But soon (within a couple chapters) I realized that the author had run out of new things to say. While there are some non-fiction authors that can captivate and entertain an audience with a single concept (ie... Gladwell w/"Tipping Point/Blink"), this author's writing style seems unusually laborious and repetitive -- languishing in incomprehensible detail. Sad to say, but I think I would have been better off just reading a synopsis of this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Berarducci on February 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I can't believe the average customer review is greater than 4 stars! This book was a chore to read; I will admit that I could not drag myself throught he entire text. And I mean "text". This book was written like a textbook. I felt I back in college slogging through my required reading. This book was written as if someone did a whole bunch of research (using many different grad students of course), then tried to compile all the data into a book. The problem is, anybody can do that, but few can do that well. The writer loses the reader in all those details, forgeting to stick to the basics, highlight them with interesting examples, and repeat them often. I know she probably thinks she did this, and she did, just not well. I've never seen such an interesting topic made so boring.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on November 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Recently I got into a conversation with the guy next to me on the plane about some of the memorable books we had each read in the past few years. Unfortunately, I had to recall `Confidence'-easily the worst book I've read in years.

To describe it as disappointing is to go easy on Ms. Kanter. It is far beyond that, and altogether abominable and embarrassing. That such a prestigious business school like Harvard can tenure a professor who writes such insipid pablum boggles the mind.

Let's start with the central (and only) idea of the book--that winning begets winning and losing begets losing. This of course strikes most people as fairly straightforward and unworthy of a book's worth of elaboration. Yet Ms. Kanter tumbles all over herself to spell out the details: why this is the case (as if someone with an ounce of inferential ability couldn't figure it out in a couple of minutes), how it affects team morale, how it self-perpetuates, etc... And worst of all, endless, endless, endless examples that do nothing or very little to elucidate; rather, they simply restate what has just been said. And they restate and restate and restate.

Tautological (I think the word was invented in anticipation of this book), boring, tedious, insipid, stupid, unthoughtful, unenergetic, disengaged, disrespectful. All these adjectives apply forcefully to the book. Most of all, though, it is utterly uninventive and cliched.

Turn to any page and you'll find such gems of penetrating insight as (forgive me, but these are so funny I have to quote at length):

"Winning feels good, and good moods are contagious. Success makes it easier to view events in a positive light, to generate optimism. It produces energy and promotes morale.
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The word "confidence" gets overused and abused among many personal and business coaches, so I was surprised to see Kanter's choice of title. In a way, it's misleading, because Kanter focuses more broadly on how to capitalize on winning streaks and turn around losing streaks. Confidence is only part of a leadership formula.

Kanter chooses sports examples because they're clear-cut. Wins and losses are easy to identify. However, the lessons from those case histories apply to a variety of business, organizational and personal situations.

If you read carefully, she warns that turnarounds aren't easy. "Try not to lose twice in a row," she warns. If you conclude there's no point in trying to win, there's trouble ahead. Signs of a losing streak include weak accountability, deteriorating relationships and disappearing initiative. "The only good thing about losing is that it sounds an alarm bell," she concludes.

Once you realize you're on a losing streak, Kanter emphasizes, you need to build, not retreat. Stay calm, she says. Dig deeper. Work harder. Seek support, even when you feel like hiding. And most important, remember you can't "jump the processes." Use small steps to achieve big goals. Everybody wants a quick fix and that's a surefire recipe for disaster.

As a career consultant, I am often asked how to break individual losing streaks. Typically a client says something like, "I lost my job, got sick, had family crises, and had to move. And now I'm defeated." Or clients lose one job after another, fueled by discouragement.

Kanter's book has to be translated to reach individuals. Her message seems to be, "Someone has to take charge." In one moving example, a family rallied behind a teenager who was failing math.
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